On Thursday we were able to experience many parts and places of Haifa that I wasn’t even aware existed. From monasteries and trenches to Ethiopians, Druze and Haredis, it was yet another eye-opening day about how intricately intertwined everything and everyone in Haifa is. I’ve been really amazed by this unique diversity that exists in Haifa; it’s something I’ve always heard about but haven’t really experienced or seen with my own eyes. I was really surprised to learn just how much of the community CJP has touched and the amount of work they’ve done to make the community better, and build partnerships not only between Haifa and Boston, but also within the various communities in Haifa.

This concept of partnership between Israeli and U.S. cities has been really important and special to me ever since I participated in a program called Diller, a Jewish teen leadership program that connects American teens to Israeli teens. It’s a program and concept I’m really passionate about, and it was really cool to meet the women that are running CJP in Haifa and really see and feel the passion, energy and love they have for what they do.

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A highlight of the day was meeting a man named Micky up on a ridge of Mount Carmel. Micky is not only a history buff and professor, but he had also uncovered and dug up trenches that the British had made in 1941-42 in preparation of an expected and impending Nazi invasion into the land that was then controlled by the British. Micky had mistakenly found these trenches one day while hiking, and remembered his dad had showed him them years and years ago. This inspired him to research and find all of the trenches throughout Haifa, which he did with a map from the British archives and a pick and a shovel. This really unique and not widely known piece of history really highlights just how complicated, rich and abundant the history is here in Israel.

Whether from over 2,000 years ago or 80 years ago, it’s literally everywhere you look. I love history and it’s something I love about this place, especially when it comes from the people whose story it is to tell. Each story we hear, like the ones from the Ethiopian teens preparing for the army or the Druze man advocating for his community, adds another piece to this complex and intricate puzzle that exists in this region. What continues to amaze me is just when I think I’ve seen all there is to see in Israel, I’m able to spend just four days on ConnecTech and learn so much and meet so many people whose stories I’d never heard. This country is like one enormous living museum—the type that you could spend years and years and years in and never see it all, which I find to be so beautiful and fascinating, and always leaves me wanting to learn and explore more.

Allie Shepard is a chemical engineering student at MIT.

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